Spiritual Life

There’s a lesson to be learned from honking geese

Usually you hear them first. Then as the noise grows louder, you crane your neck upward.

Coming into view is the unmistakable V-formation undulating across the sky accompanied by the non-stop honking of geese.

In many parts of the world, the semi-annual migration of geese is a way of marking the turning of the seasons. Likewise with countless other birds, butterflies, animals and whales, to name but a few examples. But just now, it’s the honking of geese that intrigues me.

Why are they honking?

I have yet to ask a goose about their inflight communication. I don’t know how honking helps them successfully coordinate and sustain their cross-country journeys. However, my ignorance of honking does not prevent me from speculating as to its purpose and function, and then applying those to our own passages and populaces.

Perhaps geese are sharing news from the recent months in the north or in the south. During the periods of settlement in summer or winter, much life is lived. Births and deaths. Gains and losses. Joys and sorrows. Acquaintances made and relationships established. And then when instinct or some type of internal drive is activated, they lift off en masse and begin the pilgrimage once again.

Maybe they are encouraging each other to stay together and endure together. These are not quick jaunts to the next pond, but epic journeys across thousands of miles; repeated year after year, twice a year.

I don’t know if geese have courage, per se.

But call it what you will, those faint of heart, those low in determination, will not likely make it.

Indeed, we homo sapiens need encouragement and collaboration for the living of our days, for the challenges to our lives, for the accomplishment of vocations and fulfillment of dreams.

Perhaps geese are sharing guidance or direction.

While we’re en route, we benefit from the wisdom of those who have traveled for some time and, not unlike a series of commercial, “learned a thing or two as they have seen a thing or two.” We also benefit from the energy of those who have just joined the entourage and bring fresh energy and perspective to the enterprise.

Each generation must find its way, guided by an inner spirit, a collective spirit, and a Great Spirit.

Perhaps geese are making plans for after their arrival at their intended destination.

People who have migrated first imagine what their new lives will be like, then compare notes with others, and finally go about getting settled in their new domicile.

Whether we find ourselves in traveler or settler mode, we need to communicate. By voice or correspondence, we must stay in touch. If we fly alone, we will likely not survive the trek. If we ignore our traveling companions, we will have no settling companions upon arrival.

And finally, while we honk our car and truck horns far too much, we will profit by honking our blessings one to another all the days of our lives.

Timothy J. Ledbetter, DMin, BCC is an American Baptist-endorsed professional chaplain and member of Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email lluginbill@tricityherald.com.